FC Barcelona: The All-Time Best XI

Xoel Cardenas@@XoelCardenasContributor IIINovember 29, 2012

FC Barcelona: The All-Time Best XI

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    FC Barcelona: The All-Time Best XI

    Need I say more?

    To know FC Barcelona is to appreciate the great players that have worn the blaugrana in the club’s history.

    Today, I present to you who—in my opinion—is the all-time greatest starting XI one can produce with all of Barcelona’s history of players.

    A few of these names you will easily recognize. If you don’t know who some of these players are, you cannot consider yourself a true Culé.

    Yes, knowing the club’s history is important. Not just the players, but what the club has represented to the people of Catalunya.

    I have decided to go with a 3-2-3-2 formation for my starting XI.

    In honor of Futbol Club Barcelona turning 113 years old on November 29, as well my one-year anniversary being “The Voice of FC Barcelona”, here is my FC Barcelona all-time starting XI.

Goalkeeper: Antoni Ramallets

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    Antoni Ramallets started his career at Mallorca in 1942. After one year with San Fernando and two years with Real Valladolid, he moved to Barcelona and made his debut in 1948.

    Antoni took over the goalkeeper spot full-time after an injury to Barça’s then-number-one keeper Juan Velasco.

    Ramallets was a dominant keeper. His quick and intelligent skills helped lead the club to five Liga titles during the famed "Cinco Copas"(Five Cups) year of 1952. Antoni won six Liga titles and five Copa del Rey’s during his 11 years with the club.

    In international play, Ramallets shined during the 1950 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. He even earned the nickname “O gato do Maracaná” (The cat of Maracana).

    Antoni Ramallets shares the record for most Zamora Trophies won—given to the keeper who has the lowest goals-to-games ratio—with five. Victor Valdes is the other player with five Zamoras won.

    Antoni Ramallets—the best goalkeeper FC Barcelona has ever had.

CB: Carles Puyol

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    El capita” is one of the most beloved figures in the history of el blaugrana. Carles Puyol represents strength, toughness, but most importantly, Carles represents heart—the heart of FC Barcelona.

    Carles started off as a goalkeeper in his youth. Later, he moved to striker. During his days at La Masia, he moved again to defensive midfielder. When he moved to the B-squad, he was a right back.

    Carles was called up to the first squad in 1999 by Louis van Gaal. Puyol moved to center back and has been the anchor of the Barça backline ever since. In 2003, Carles became the captain of the team, succeeding Luis Enrique.

    Carles is defined by his toughness and his leadership. This generation will remember the clashes he’d have in Clásicos, marking players like Zinedine Zidane and the Real Madrid’s captain for many years, Raul. These past few years, what’s a Clásico without seeing Puyol and Iker Casillas shaking hands and exchanging pennants?

    Carles has won five Ligas, two Copa del Reys, five Spanish Super Cups, three UEFA Champions League, two UEFA Super Cups, and two FIFA Club World Cups with FC Barcelona. He was the 2006 UEFA Club Best Defender and won the UEFA Team of the Year on six occasions.

    Although injuries have slowed Carles down in recent years, he continues to be a solid leader with the team, and is one of the most respected footballers in the world.

    El Captia      

CB: Ronald Koeman

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    One of the members of the “Dream Team”, Ronald Koeman was no ordinary defender. The man was a monster at free kicks and his accuracy was better than many forwards in the game.

    The Dutchman started at Groningen before making stops with the two big clubs in the Netherlands, Ajax and PSV, for three years each. In 1989, Ronald took his talents to FC Barcelona where he displayed his wonderful passing abilities as well as his awareness skills. Ronald was not a physical defender; he was a midfielder (a spot he played many times) that just happened to have solid defensive skills as well.   

    But as I mentioned, what made Ronald Koeman special was not only his defending/passing skills, but his accurate shooting skills. Ronald would power penalties and free kicks into the back of the net. Koeman scored 102 goals in his six years with El Blaugrana.

    Ronald’s greatest goal came in the 1992 European Cup final against Sampdoria, scoring a golazo of a free kick in the 111th minute.

    Today, Ronald manages Feyenoord in Holland.

    Ronald Koeman remains one of the most beloved Barcelona defender/players of all time.

CB: Joan Segarra

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    Joan Segarra played 16 seasons with FC Barcelona and was one of the greatest captains in the club’s history, hence why he was nicknamed “El Gran Captià” (The Great Captain).

    Segarra was known for his style and elegance as a defender. He was very respected by his opponents and he was very versatile, playing both CDM or his usual CB spot.

    Joan Segarra was the captain of the famed “Barça of the Five Cups” of 1952 in which the club won La Liga, the Copa del Rey (then the Copa del Generalísimo), the Copa Latina, the Copa Eva Duarte and the Copa Martini Rossi.

    Segarra appeared in 402 games in 16 seasons for Barcelona in his career, which is ninth all time.

MF: Xavi

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    Xavi Hernandez i Creus is without a doubt the player that defines the current generation of FC Barcelona.

    Pass first, pass second, trust your teammates always, and never be afraid to take risks.

    Xavi was born to play football as his father, Joaquin, was a footballer for Sabadell FC. Xavi joined La Masia at the age of 11. Growing up, Xavi’s hero was Josep “Pep” Guardiola, and he tried to imitate his game.

    After spending one year at Barcelona B, Xavi was called up to the first squad in 1998. He made his Liga debut in October of that year in a 3-1 victory against Valencia. A year later, Xavi was named the 1999 La Liga Breakthrough Player of the Year.

    Xavi took over the playmaking duties for Barcelona in the 1999-2000 season, replacing Pep Guardiola.

    Xavi has been making plays ever since.

    Xavi was named La Liga Spanish Player of the Year in 2005. While Xavi was already one of the world’s best midfielders, it wasn’t until 2008 and the return of Pep Guardiola—now as a manager—that Xavi’s game elevated to legendary status. With the tiki-taka in full gear, Xavi became—and still is—the orchestral conductor of the tiki-taka and the FC Barcelona offense. Xavi lead La Liga in assists in 2008-09 and once again in 2009-10.

    But more importantly, Xavi won many titles.

    Xavi has won six Ligas, two Copa del Reys, five Spanish Super Cups, three UEFA Champions League titles, two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups.

    Let’s not forget that he’s won two European Championships with Spain, and of course the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

    The only award that has eluded Xavi has been the Ballon d’Or—although many football fans believe he should have won that award a while ago.

    Xavi is the best midfielder of our generation and will go down as the greatest midfielder in FC Barcelona history.

MF: Pep Guardiola

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    Josep “Pep” Guardiola has become more than just a Barcelona legend in the past four years, he’s now become a football icon.

    Before winning 14 titles in four years as a manager, Pep was and is one of the greatest midfielders in Barça history. Pep started out at La Masia at the age of 14. Growing up, Pep admired Johan Cruyff and tried to emulate his game.

    In 1990, Cruyff—then manager at Barcelona—called Pep up to the first squad to play central midfield, a position Pep was not accustomed to. Guardiola was a central-right midfielder, but Cruyff could see something special in the young Catalan. Pep quickly adjusted to playing CM and he’d stay at the position for the rest of his career.

    Guardiola’s vision and passing were nothing short of brilliant. He always knew what pass to make, and he always knew where he had to be on the pitch to both make the passes needed as well has make life easier for his teammates.

    Guradiola was part of the famed “Dream Team” who won the 1992 European Cup. Pep was a part of six Liga titles, two Copa del Reys, four Spanish Super Cups, two UEFA Super Cups and one UEFA Cup Winners Cup.

    Perhaps one of Pep Guardiola’s proudest moments was when he won a Gold Medal as a member of the Spanish national team in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.

    Pep spent 11 seasons at FC Barcelona as a player. Pep influenced the Barça midfielders of today: Xavi, Andres Iniesta, and Cesc Fabregas. Cesc wore No. 4 at Arsenal and now wears No. 4 at Barcelona as a tribute to his hero, Pep.

    Pep Guardiola: the genius behind the tiki-taka, and one of the greatest midfielders in Barcelona history.

CAM: Johan Cruyff

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    One of the greatest players of all time, Johan Cruyff revolutionized the attacking midfield position.

    Cruyff came to Barcelona from Ajax in 1973 after spending nine years with the Dutch giants. Cruyff helped Barça win La Liga. One of Johan’s most famous moments was his “Phantom Goal” against Atletico Madrid.

    Johan Cruyff made 148 appearances and scored 48 goals in five seasons with FC Barcelona. 

    Although Cruyff played five seasons and only won one Liga and Copa del Rey at his time there, Johan was embraced by all of Catalunya and vice versa. He even named his son “Jordi”, a Catalan name.  

    It was Johan’s “Total Football”, the Dutch tactical and playing style pioneered by Cruyff’s Ajax team of the late 1960s-early 1970s, which changed FC Barcelona forever. Cruyff’s style of play and his influence was his greatest gift to the club. Cruyff was Pep Guardiola’s boyhood hero, and Johan’s teachings as Pep’s manager in the early 1990s lead Pep to adopting the same style of play that we saw during Guardiola’s time as Barcelona manager.

    And we all know how that turned out: 14 titles.

    If you look at the chain of midfield command at FC Barcelona, it all falls back to Johan Cruyff:

    Cesc Fabregas wears No. 4 in tribute to Pep Guardiola.

    Thiago Alcantara is constantly compared to Xavi.

    Andres Iniesta wanted to be like both Xavi and Pep.

    Xavi's hero was Pep Guardiola.

    And Pep Guardiola’s hero was Johan Cruyff.

RW: Lionel Messi

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    Of course Lionel Andres Messi is in the all-time Barça starting XI.

    When it’s all said and done, Lionel Messi will be the greatest of all time.

    Messi has plenty of years left in his career, so for now, let’s look at just some of the things he’s accomplished at 25 years old for FC Barcelona:

    5 La Liga titles

    5 Spanish SuperCups

    2 Copa del Reys

    3 UEFA Champions League titles

    2 UEFA Super Cups

    2 FIFA Club World Cups

    And a countless number of individual awards.

    Let’s not forget, Ballon d’Or winner three years in a row, and looking to win his fourth in a row soon.

    I could go on about Messi's greatness, but we still have more greatness to witness from King Leo, so let's wait and see how the rest of his career all plays out.

    Cherish every FC Barcelona match you watch, because you will never see another player like Lionel Messi again.

    The greatest footballer of all time: Lionel Messi.

LW: Ronaldinho

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    Ronaldinho Gaucho was almost not an FC Barcelona player. In 2003, Manchester United nearly signed him for €30 million. But former Barça club president Joan Laporta was not going to give up signing the Brazilian after Barça lost out on signing David Beckham, who went to Real Madrid.

    It’s comical now to think Beckham at Barcelona and not Ronaldinho.

    Dinho won his first World Player of the Year in 2004 and again in 2005. Dinho racked up awards, highlights reels, and wins for FC Barcelona at his tenure at the Camp Nou. Ronaldinho won the Ballon d’Or in 2005 and helped lead Barça to their second UEFA Champions League title in history in 2006.

    But perhaps the most important thing Ronaldinho did for FC Barcelona is something that does not show up in stats or video.

    Ronaldinho Gaucho helped begin a “Barça Renaissance”, as I call it, at FC Barcelona in the 2000s; not to mention bring new FC Barcelona fans to the team.

    His speed, his dribbling skills, his free kicks, his big infectious smile, and his goals are just some of the reasons new football fans were attracted to watching Ronaldinho and FC Barcelona in the 2000s, along with having young stars Xavi, Carles Puyol, Samuel Eto’o and Deco as well as rising stars Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi. Credit must go to Frank Rijkaard for helping Dinho and that era succeed.

    Till this day, many young Culés credit Ronaldinho for turning them into Barcelona fans.  

    Ronaldinho left in 2008, but he’ll never leave the hearts and memories of Culés.

    We love you, Maestro Ronaldinho.

1st ST: Cesar Rodriguez

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    One of the greatest players not only in FC Barcelona history, but in Spanish football history, Cesar is without question one of the top three Barcelona players of all time.

    Cesar’s reign started in 1942, scoring 13 goals his first season. Between 1944-5 and 1950-51, Cesar was Barcelona’s highest scorer. Cesar was a member of one of the greatest Barcelona teams in history, the famed “Cinco Copas” team of 1952.

    Some of his teammates during the 1940s included Antoni Ramallets and Joan Segarra—both in my all-time starting XI. His teammates in the 1950s included Laszlo Kubala, Tomas Hernandez “Moreno”, and Eduardo Manchon.

    Cesar won five Ligas, two Copas del Generalisimo (now the Copa del Rey), four Copa Eva Duartes and two Latin Cups. Despite being a tremendous goal-scorer, Cesar only won the Pichichi once (1948-49).

    Cesar is the all-time leading goal-scorer in FC Barcelona history with 294 goals. Lionel Messi is second and will eventually overtake Cesar’s record.  

    Long live Cesar, one of the greats in Spanish football history.

2nd ST: Laszlo Kubala

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    While Cesar Rodriguez was in the latter stages of his time at Barcelona, the club found its newest star in Ladislao “Laszlo” Kubala when, according to the club, he arrived with a team of refugee players from Hungary.

    The Hungarian went on to become one of the best players in club history. In 1999, Culés named Kubala the best player ever to have played for the club.

    Kubala joined Barcelona in 1950 and made his Liga debut a year later. Kubala scored 26 goals in his first year, including a seven-goal game against Sporting Gijon that season. Laszlo was a part of the famed “Cinco Copas” squad of 1951-52 with teammates Antoni Ramallets, Johan Segarra, and Cesar (all in my all-time starting XI).

    Kubala was not the heavy goal-scorer that Cesar was, but it was Laszlo’s style, elegance, free kick skills, technical abilities, power and vision that made him a fan favorite and one of the most beloved players in the club’s history.

    Laszlo played 11 seasons with FC Barcelona, scoring 194 goals in all competitions. He helped Barcelona win four Liga titles, five Copa del Gerenalisimo titles, two Copa Eva Duartes and one Latin Cup.

    Grande Laszlo! Grande Kubala!

Starting XI

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    Here's what my all-time starting XI looks like.

    Love to hear what you think. Let us know what's your all-time starting XI in the comments section.

    Gracies! Gracias! Thanks!

    O le le,

    O la la,

    ser del Barça és

    el millor que hi ha

    Visca el Barça!

    Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona on the net, period.

    Don't forget to check out my other columns:

    Barcelona Wins, Real Madrid Loses, Is La Liga Done?

    Is This Barça Team The Best La Liga Team Ever?

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